In Memoriam: Lee Harwood (1939-2015)

Posted 8/3/2015 (link)

PennSound Daily has far-too-often brought the news of passed poets lately, and sadly we have one more name to add to that eternal roster: British poet and translator Lee Harwood, who died at the age of seventy-six on July 26th.

His death was reported by The Argus, which remembered him not only as a prolific poet but for his political service "as a union official and as a member of the Labour Party during its most radical years." John Harvey also offered up a recollection of his long friendship with Harwood, including the memory of an event last fall when they both read their work with jazz accompaniment, which conjured up memories of the poet's formative experiences in New York during the 1960s. Finally, Enitharmon Press, publishers of Harwood's most recent collection, The Orchid Boat hailed him as "not only a highly gifted and skilled poet, but a man of immense kindness and thoughtfulness."

We created our Lee Harwood author page in May 2009 with two recordings: the career-spanning The Chart Table: Poems 1965-2002, released as part of the Rockdrill series, and a half-hour set with Nathaniel Tarn as part of the Shearsman Reading Series at London's Swedenborg Hall in June 2008. In December 2013, we added the marvelous "Chanson Tzara", an audio composition with text, translation, and narration by Harwood and sound and realization by Alexander Baker, rooted in the poet's formative encounter with the Dada master in Paris during the 1960s. You can listen to all of these recordings by clicking on the title above.

New on Jacket2: Spero Interview Transcript

Posted 8/5/2015 (link)

In early June, we announced PennSound Podcast #50, in which Gabriel Ojeda-Sague interviewed Emji Spero (right) — a Oakland-based artist and poet exploring the intersections of writing, book art, installation, and performance — upon the occasion of the latter's visit to the Kelly Writers House in April 2015. This week at Jacket2, we've published a transcript of that interview, transcribed by Ojeda-Sague.

While the conversation starts with a discussion of Spero's book almost any shit will do — which uses found language from mycelial studies, word-replacement, and erasure to map the boundaries of collective engagement — it moves on to address topics as diverse as personal trauma, queer longing, surveillance states, public/private access, the Baltimore riots, and a new work on violence as the static and quotidian. The recording ends with a ten-minute collaborative reading from the book by both poets.

Etheridge Knight: Prison Poems, Newly Segmented

Posted 8/7/2015 (link)

In addition to PennSound Daily, you can always check out the PennSound box on Jacket2's front page for new highlights from our archives. Our current selection is a recording from around 1968 of Etheridge Knight reading Prison Poems at Indiana State Prison. Al Filreis offers a brief introduction to the tracks:

Etheridge Knight reads Prison Poems, sometime in 1968, at the Indiana State Prison. This recording is marred by — or indeed perhaps enhanced and positively complicated by — the loud music playing in the background. This recording, which has been at Knight's PennSound author page for some time, has now been segmented (by Hannah Judd).

Altogether, there are twenty-eight tracks, including an introduction and the following titles among many others: "Cell Song," "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane," "To the Man Who Sidled Up to Me and Asked: How Long You In Fer, Buddy?," "Poems for Black Relocation Centers," "For Malcolm, A Year After," and "Apology for Apostasy." You'll find these tracks, along with Watershed Tapes' album, So My Soul Can Sing and video footage of a 1980 reading for the Friends of the Scranton Public Library Poetry Series on our Etheridge Knight author page.

Maggie Nelson on 'Between the Covers,' 2015

Posted 8/10/2015 (link)

Since we added a series page for Between the Covers — David Naimon's literary radio series broadcast on Portland, Oregon's KBOO 90.7 FM — last November, we've brought you engaging conversations with Claudia Rankine, Sarah Manguso, and Mary Ruefle selected from the show's impressive broader roster of programs. We recently added a new episode, featuring Maggie Nelson discussing her latest book, the dazzling work of "autotheory," The Argonauts, which was broadcast on July 29th. Here's Naimon's description of the program:

"An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family. Maggie Nelson binds her personal experience, the story of her relationship with the fluidly-gendered artist Harry Dodge, to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language, offering a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making."

You can listen to this program by clicking on the title above, which will take you to PennSound's Maggie Nelson author page. There, you'll also find a 2013 reading as part of the Boise State MFA reading series, a pair of 2008 readings from the Key West Literary Seminar, a 2007 appearance on LA Lit, a 2003 set for the Belladonna* reading series, and finally, a 2001 Segue Series reading at Double Happiness, many of which have been segmented. Taken together, they offer a broad survey of Nelson's work from her early poetry collections through to her more recent hybrid volumes.

Charles Bernstein: Bilingual Readings in Germany, 2015

Posted 8/12/2015 (link)

We wanted to make sure that you didn't miss out on this series of readings that Charles Bernstein gave in Germany this past May. Bernstein details the events in a recent Jacket2 commentary post.

They include a May 11th event in Essen at the Proust Bookstore, where Bernstein, Tobias Amslinger, Norbert Lange, Léonce W. Lupette, and Mathias Traxler read selections from Angriff der Schwierigen Gedichte (Bernstein's selected poems in translation). On May 15th, the same group convened in Berlin at Literaturwerkstatt for an event dubbed "Connaisseur des Chaos: C=H=A=R=L=E=S B=E=R=N=S=T=E=I=N," moderated by Simone Kornappel, which included a talk and slide presentation by Susan Bee and a fifteen minute discussion by the panelists in addition to bilingual presentations of a number of poems. Finally, on May 17th, in Dresden, Norbert Lange and Charles Bernstein read their collaboration, "Apoplexie/Apoplexie," which will be published later this year. Video of the first event, segmented audio of the second, and a complete recording of the third are all available here.

Frank Lima, Susie Timmons at Woodland Pattern, 2012

Posted 8/14/2015 (link)

If you haven't already checked out our archive of recordings from Milwaukee's venerable Woodland Pattern Book Center — which houses a diverse array of recordings from nearly its entire thirty-six year existence — then here's a pair of recent additions to the page that serve as an excellent starting point.

Recorded on December 12, 2012, this reading features a double-bill of Frank Lima and Susie Timmons. Lima's work is divided into two parts, the first brief video starting with "Inventory — to 100th Street" (which he identifies as the second poem he ever wrote) before moving on to more recent material with "El Norte." His second clip contains a birthday poem for Kenneth Koch rich with the details of his many literary friendships in New York's thriving downtown scene of the 1960s.

Timmons' short video contains selections from The New Old Paint, specifically the sequence "Chickadees in the Snow," with titles including "Dead Road," "Chickadees in the Snow," "Sweeping Your Sidewalks," and "Fun in Cincinnati."

Clicking on the title above will take you to our Woodland Pattern series page, where you can watch all of the aforementioned video clips.

PoemTalk 91: on Gil Ott's "The Forgotten"

Posted 8/18/2015 (link)

Today we launched the ninety-first episode in the PoemTalk Podcast series, in which discuss the work of a major figure in Philadelphia's poetry scene, the late Gil Ott. Appropriately enough, host Al Filreis is joined by a trio of Philly poetry all-stars — Jenn McCreary, Pattie McCarthy, and Frank Sherlock (as shown at right) — to consider Ott's "The Forgotten," taken from 1989's Public Domain.

Filreis begins his write-up on the PoemTalk blog by providing some context for the poem: "In No Restraints (an anthology of writings about disability culture), Gil Ott's contribution is about invisible disability. Pattie notes that 'The Forgotten' enacts this notion, especially at the beginning when it 'points so much to the interior' of sourceless hurt, of forgotten wound. The 'wound too great to finish telling.' The disappearing pain opens the poem and opens up the stanza. Jenn sees that the way Ott moves around in the four stanzas of the poem explains in part what he means by the phrase 'the illness moves,' and in the discussion she closely tracks that sort of movement. Ott is in control of the way the poem moves, from idea to idea, trope to trope and, crucially, sound to sound (and kind of sound), but what he's saying ultimately is that he is unable to discern the origin of that constant discomfort which makes such control possible." You can read more about the program on Jacket2.

PoemTalk is a co-production of PennSound, the Kelly Writers House, Jacket2 and the Poetry Foundation. If you're interested in more information on the series or want to hear our archives of previous episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store.

New on Jacket2: Robin Blaser Interviewed by Leonard Schwartz (Transcript)

Posted 8/20/2015 (link)

Earlier this week over at Jacket2, we published Michael Nardone's transcript of Leonard Schwartz's interview with Robin Blaser, taken from one of the earliest episodes (#8, to be specific) of his program, Cross Cultural Poetics, broadcast on Olympia's KAOS-FM. Recorded on November 24, 2003 and titled "Inferno," this program features Blaser "discussing Dante's Inferno in relation to the American-made 'inferno' in Iraq." You can listen to the original audio as you read along on our Cross Cultural Poetics series page.

As a preview, here's a particularly interesting exchange between the two, framed by Blaser's mentioning that he "was very pleased when Canada did not join in the Iraq invasion":

Schwartz: Can I ask you a question about that? I've always meant to ask you this: how is it that you were born in Colorado and are now a Canadian citizen?

Blaser: I have co-citizenship. I have dual citizenship in the United States and in Canada, by birth in Denver and my many years there, and then in Canada, I was asked here by the new university, then, Simon Fraser University here, and I came for a year. They asked me to stay two, and then they asked me to stay on, and they were generous and they gave me a great deal of freedom in what I could do and what I could teach, marvellous courses, and so I spent twenty years at the university. Now I've been up here over thirty years, and it does not seem to me that it's quite right to live in a country and not participate in its political and social life, so I took out my Canadian citizenship alongside the dualism of the dual American citizenship. I have both.

Schwartz: That's interesting.

Blaser: And I honor both, too. But I was very, very struck by a remark that I read recently by Mark Lilla, which I quote right now because I had written it down in case it was useful: "You may love America, yes, but you must hate cruelty, despise liars and value liberty." And I add to that: This is justice and simple decency, which I call responsibility.

You can read the complete transcript at Jacket2

In Memoriam: Stephen Rodefer (1940-2015)

Posted 8/24/2015 (link)

This past weekend brought the sad news of the passing of poet and translator Stephen Rodefer, who died in Paris the age of 74.

"Consensus among poets tends to be that though a complicated, self-destructive, and often infuriating person, Rodefer was a great poet," Jennifer Moxley writes in a vivid and intimate remembrance of her "old teacher and sometime friend." That admiration is shared in a number of online tributes that have emerged over the past several days, often using Rodefer's own words to toast him.

With that purpose in mind, we respectfully direct our listeners to PennSound's Stephen Rodefer author page, which brings together seven recordings of the poet — most of them entire readings running from thirty to eighty minutes — made between 1979 (an appearance on KPFA's In the American Tree) and 2009 (a filmed recording from the Double Change archives). There are also several Segue Series readings from the the Ear Inn, Double Happiness, and the Bowery Poetry Club, and a 2004 reading from SUNY-Buffalo's Wednesdays@4+ series. Listeners can also visit Alan Bernheimer's author page to listen to a 1982 production of his Particle Arms, for which Rodefer was a cast member.

Congratulations to Janus Pannonius Grand Prize Winner Charles Bernstein

Posted 8/26/2015 (link)

We couldn't be more proud of our colleague, Charles Bernstein, who was recently awarded the 2015 Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry along with Italian author and critic Giuseppe Conte. Hailed by The New York Times as "the Nobel Prize for Poetry," the Pannonius Prize was inaugurated in 2012 by PEN International's Hungarian Centre and aims "to honour and reward those poets who can be considered heirs to human spirituality and culture, the grand chain of values, accumulated over millennia." "We wish to honour those contemporary artists who have done the most to advance the representation and enrichment of forms of consciousness in harmony with the reflection and interpretation of the world today," they explain, noting that "the prize has been named after Janus Pannonius, the first known and celebrated Hungarian poet." Previous honorees include Adonis (Syria), Yves Bonnefoy (France), and Simin Behbahani (Iran).

You can read more about the Prize, including details of the celebrations taking place this week in both Milan and Pécs, Hungary (the birthplace of Pannonius), which will include the presentation of a co-authored, bilingual volume — Tutto il whiskey in cielo/Tutto il meraviglioso in terra (All the Whiskey in Heaven/All the Wonder of the World) — in this recent Jacket2 commentary post by Bernstein.

In Memoriam: Charles Tomlinson (1927-2015)

Posted 8/28/2015 (link)

We're very sad to share the news that Charles Tomlinson, CBE, passed away on August 22nd. His life was celebrated by The Guardian, whose Michael Schmidt noted that the "poet and translator who bridged the cultural gap between old and new worlds ... has died aged 88, at the Gloucestershire cottage where he had lived since 1958." "It is significant," he continues, "that this major English modernist and internationalist should have rooted himself for half a century in a quintessentially rural corner of England."

The University of Bristol, where Tomlinson was Professor Emeritus, has also published a loving tribute that not only recounts his life story and many achievements, but also the day-to-day impact he made upon his colleagues and students. One particularly charming passage notes that "Charles was a very special colleague and friend. Though one of the most distinguished and respected literary intellectuals of his day, he was entirely without pretention or misplaced vanity. One sometimes forgot that one had someone so famous in one's midst. The inevitably rather trivial and myopic business of department meetings was, however, always freshened with a new blast of reality when one realised that across the table was someone who had met Ezra Pound, had read The Waste Land aloud in the presence of TS Eliot's widow, and had perhaps just returned from a weekend with his close friend, the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, or a rendezvous with the Nobel Prizewinner, Octavio Paz."

There's, perhaps, no better person to appraise Tomlinson's life and work, however, than Richard Swigg and so the last word belongs to him. Having worked closely with Richard over the past several years on two impressively-massive projectsPennSound's Charles Tomlinson author page (which brings together hundreds of individual tracks recorded over five decades), and the Jacket2 feature, Addressing One's Peers: The letters of Charles Tomlinson and George Oppen, 1963–1981" — I reached out to him as soon as I heard the news of Tomlinson's passing, asking if he'd like to share an appreciation. I reprint his thoughtful reply in its entirety below:

Charles Tomlinson was the supreme international poet of his generation. Crossing borders, yet thereby attaining his own distinctive English voice, he showed the adventurous versatility which in the 1950s rejected the surreal romanticism of Dylan Thomas and the anti-romantic reaction of Philip Larkin and the Movement poets. The way forward, by contrast, lay in grasping the possibilities offered by the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore and, most crucially, William Carlos Williams. Later still the Englishman who often felt alienated from the townscapes and literary life of his own country would also come to know America itself, with a closeness that nourished so much of the poetry from the 1960s onward. As partly shown by his 1981 memoir, Some Americans (and more fully revealed by his unpublished letters I am now editing), his personal engagement with American poets themselves — with Williams, Moore, James Laughlin, Robert Creeley, George Oppen, Louis Zukofsky, William Bronk and Gustaf Sobin — was exceptional in its range, warmth and personal encouragement, particularly in his efforts to secure British publication for several of them. It was the same generosity of spirit, and openness toward writing often so different from his, which was inextricably linked to a major concern in his own poetry: a regard for all that lies outside the self in the circumambient universe, not to be imposed upon but realized afresh by its metamorphosis into words. The change was also manifest in the life of the poet himself: the transformation via America and its people that enabled him to "re-measure," as he said, his own country. To quote the title of a book he published in 1974, including poems on his Midlands birthplace, Stoke-on-Trent, he had found, by means of a transatlantic route that also took in the Italy of Ungaretti and the Spain of Machado, The Way In. But then it must be said that it is the poetry as a whole, from The Necklace (1955) to the last book, Cracks in the Universe (2006), which has secured our way in to the energies, shapes, and processes of a physical world which only this poet could celebrate so triumphantly. That, in the end, is Charles Tomlinson's enduring, unforgettable achievement.

On Hurricane Katrina's 10th Anniversary: 'Professional Human Beings'

Posted 8/29/2015 (link)

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall at New Orleans, breaching the levees in more than fifty places and leaving much of the city deluged with as much as fifteen feet of flood water. Today, on the tenth anniversary of those calamitous events, we'd like to remind our listeners of a wonderful radio documentary added to our archives in April 2010, which explores poetry, politics, locality and resilience in the aftermath of disaster: Professional Human Beings.

In the words of producer Pauline Cavillot, Professional Human Beings, "is about the essential role played by the arts in the recovery of post-Katrina New Orleans, expressed by New Orleans people: poets, an art therapist, a theatre producer." Some of the poets involved in Professional Human Beings include Michael Ford (whose collection, Carbon, records life before and after Hurricane Katrina), Dave Brinks (author of The Caveat Onus and proprietor of The Gold Mine Saloon), Bill Lavender (whose imprint, Lavender Ink, publishes work by New Orleans poets, as well as non-local authors like Hank Lazer and Randy Prunty), and Brett Evans and Frank Sherlock (co-authors of Ready-to-Eat Individual, a haunting collaborative portrait of "New Orleans, USA, the year 1 AK"). Also included in the program are Holly Wherry, an art therapist who worked with the children of New Orleans post-Katrina, and Barbara Motley, founder of Théâtre Cabaret Le Chat Noir. We've provided individual segments for each speaker, and you can also stream or download the entire forty-five minute documentary on our Professional Human Beings homepage, where you'll also find links to a photo gallery.

Those who'd like to hear more from Ready-to-Eat Individual can find several recordings of excerpts from the book on our Frank Sherlock author page.